• Home
  • About
  • Guest Post

    A disgruntled teacher drops a 100-pound anvil onto a calculator from a height of 12 inches…

    Via John, whose blog would be a daily read of mine if he posted that often but really no pressure buddy at all seriously none, here’s a great post by Moebius Stripper on…well, I’ll let her tell it:

    I’ve been tutoring a high school kid for the past two months. The kid’s in grade 12; when I met him, he was doing math at a grade two or three level. This is not an exaggeration: he couldn’t add or multiply single-digit numbers without a calculator. And this wasn’t just rustiness, as this inability extended to not being able to compute things like 6+0, 5*1, or 3*0. In other words, he didn’t know what numbers were. Not surprisingly, he couldn’t solve linear equations, add fractions, or make heads or tails of the most simple word problem.

    I met with him every other day, two hours at a time. And, to his credit, what he lacked in mathematical skill, he more than made up for in persistence. He worked diligently, if not terribly successfully, on his homework. We spent a lot of time on the basics – fractions, simple algebra, the meaning of equations. We also spent a lot of time – far, far more than I’d have liked – on how to use the [expletive regretfully deleted] graphing calculator to perform tasks that every student should know how to do with a pencil and paper.

    Numeracy is hugely, hugely important in a very general sense; and somehow the curriculum specialists and teachers seem to have found ways to remove basic, intuitive numeracy from students. Or at least they make it permissible for them to use calculators for so many basic operations that they don’t even realize it’s possible to be good with numbers.

    2 Responses to “A disgruntled teacher drops a 100-pound anvil onto a calculator from a height of 12 inches…”

    1. Toren says:

      And just think–we’re accomplishing this by spending more than twice as much (in inflation-adjusted dollars) per student as we did in the 70s. No wonder masses of the public believe in things like global warming and the danger of getting brain cancer from your cell phone.

      Thank god for whip-cracking Asian mothers or we’d have no engineering students left in America at all.

    Leave a Reply